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Copyright, Open Access, Fair Use & Public Domain

Public Domain Resources

Duke University Law School

Stanford University Libraries

Peter B. Hirtle, Cornell University Copyright Information Center

Creative Commons

A presentation prepared by Barbara Ingrassisa (2011)

Public Domain Defined

Public Domain

When a work is not covered by copyright (because the copyright term has expired, the creator has released the work, or the work was never copyrighted) it is in the public domain. A work that is in the public domain is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone.


The reasons that the work is not protected can include:

  • the term of copyright for the work has expired
  • the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to extend the copyright
  • the work is a work of the U.S. Government


Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.

Is it in the Public Domain?

Created by Samantha Lile using Visme.